Hitting the Heart of the Rodeo Season

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In the rodeo and roping industry, you have the winter rodeos, which consist of rodeos like Odessa (Texas), Denver, San Antonio, Houston, Austin, San Angelo (Texas) and Tucson (Ariz.). Then there are the major ropings, like the George Strait and the Wildfire. Those events set the pace and the tone for the frontrunners and the mid-range runners. There have only been about 20 big rodeos so far this season. Reno (Nev.), the end of June, until Pendleton (Ore.) and Albuquerque (N.M.) in September is the heart of the season. We're just getting into the big-money run of rodeos. This is where a lot of the guys gain momentum and get a rhythm going. We're sometimes competing every day or even twice a day right now, so you can really make a move. We're getting ready to pin our ears back and go at it for three months.

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Now is the time you have to make sure you have your horsepower ready. You have to have your horse situation under control-the best you can have-to get through this critical part of the season. Having two horses is good, but it sure doesn't hurt to have three or four. When it comes to good horses, the more the merrier.

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Every team's in a different spot right now. Travis Tryan and Michael Jones had a good winter and spring at the rodeos, and Travis won first and second at the George Strait. So they have some good momentum going. They have good horses, and everything's clicking for them. Chad Masters and Jade Corkill, Riley and Brady Minor, Speed (Williams) and Al (Bach), and Clay (Cooper) and I have all gotten off to a pretty decent start. It's going to be an unusual year, just for the fact that the expense of fuel's going to be a factor in this year's race. The number of teams will cut back, so there won't be as much money to win out there. It's going to affect us. Clay and I would like to secure a spot in the middle of the pack, then limit our rodeos and hang around and wait for the (Wrangler ProRodeo) Tour finales and the (Wrangler National) Finals (Rodeo).

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Cutting some of our rodeos back was our game plan this year anyway. Clay and I made some mistakes in our traveling last year. We made some trips that were hard on us and didn't make much sense. You get to thinking they can't have a rodeo without you. One example was taking off during Reno and driving to Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is a long way from Reno, Nevada. We went to the US(TRC) roping and the rodeo there, then had to fly back for the Reno short round. Clay and I drove the rest of it. That was hard, especially right before the Fourth of July run. We're like the old horses. You need to conserve, and save yourself for the big-money opportunities.

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We're excited about some of the new things coming along in the rodeo business. My theory is "go less and win more." To me, that's the answer to this game. I'm looking forward to rodeo getting closer to that concept in the near future. I'd like to go to 40 major rodeos and cut out some of the travel, but still have a chance to win. We could have more of a home life, and it wouldn't cost us as much to rope for a living. The luxury of taking your own rig and hauling a couple extra horses around might be over. We might be back to the days of four guys in a rig and splitting the fuel four ways.

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You're basically going to see about five teams stay pretty close to the top. One team will usually be the frontrunner. Things will go their way, and they'll produce a pretty good year. It'll usually be a two- or three-team race for that top spot. Come the Tour finals in the fall, some of the mid-pack teams will win good and move up toward the top. The luxury guys are about teams five through 10, who get the Finals made, but aren't making the sacrifice to try to go into the NFR on top. The very top guys are really under the gun to stay on top. The guys in the 11th through 17th spots are on the hot seat. They're forced to struggle to get into the top 15. They've invested so much time and money, and they're close enough that they can't pull up.

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I have mixed emotions about this crunch time. I like to win as much as anybody. But I'm just kind of content with keeping stride and staying within range. I have a different outlook than a lot of guys. It's not all about the chase with me. I'd like to have the Finals made after the Fourth of July, and be able to just cruise and go to the really good ones. That's the plan anyway. Clay and I haven't had a spectacular winter and spring. But we're right there in the hunt.